Readers of this blog are probably pretty familiar with the Brown Act’s requirements. They essentially say that the Supervisors can’t discuss legislative action in secret. They have to do it in public meetings.1 The law doesn’t restrict the kinds of things they can talk about, it doesn’t restrict the kinds of deals they can make with one another or with third parties. It only requires them to conduct their deliberations and decision-making in public.
So Kerry Morrison’s version of Sheila Kuehl’s position is disconcerting. She claims that Kuehl claims that the Brown Act prevents the Supervisors from eliminating homelessness because “…they can’t converse with each other. You can’t horse-trade votes. … You know, so you can’t collaborate, you know, can we all agree on what we’re all gonna…you have to do it all in open session, and it’s very cumbersome…” The idea seems to be that the supervisors can’t have an honest discussion in public, so they can’t have any discussion at all.
Kerry Morrison doesn’t elaborate, probably because the authoritarian world-view inherent in this statement is so comforting, so familiar to her. If you’re one of those who think that it’s more important that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth than it is to have the goddamned Red Line running on time you may have trouble following the argument, though.
Is the Supervisors’ modus operandi so corrupt that they can’t just talk about things with one another in public? They can’t collaborate in public because the things they do when they collaborate are too corrupt to be carried out in the sunlight? When she2 talks about how the Brown Act forbids them from “horse-trad[ing] votes” does she really mean their methods of getting to a majority are so reprehensible that they can’t be exposed? Given the Supervisors’ penchant for corruption that certainly seems plausible, but one doesn’t expect to see it admitted so openly.
And, if such a thing is possible, the idea that complying with the Brown Act makes the process of governing “cumbersome” is even more idiotic than the idea that it forbids open discussion among the Supervisors. The only reason we even have a Board of Supervisors is to govern in accordance with the wishes of the governed. Results are important, but the process is part of the result. If the means by which we are governed don’t matter, the Board of Supervisors could solve the problem of homelessness by killing all the homeless people.3 If the Supervisors find it “cumbersome” to do their jobs within the constraints that their constituents have imposed on them, why don’t they get another job? It’s shameful.
Carol Massie: So the other question that I have too is what does it take for the Board of Supervisors to reallocate those funds from one purpose to another?
Kerry Morrison: It would take some political will. And that’s what this article…I was really, really happy to see this. Art and transportation is important, but the question for the supervisors is is homelessness your priority or not? Because we’re hearing not. It would be an easy thing to delay either one of those sales tax measures.
Carol Massie: But it has to be put on the ballot by August 9. Is that even possible?
Kerry Morrison: It’s possible. I mean, Mark Ridley-Thomas is really taking the lead on this right now. He’s really been a champion. And Sheila Kuehl, she, you know, she spoke at the grand opening of the Center two weeks ago and said, you know, because of the Brown Act, they’re up on the dais, they can’t converse with each other. You can’t horse-trade votes. You have to introduce a motion, alright, let’s put the sales tax measure on the ballot. You need four votes to put the sales tax measure on. Couldn’t get it. You know, so you can’t collaborate, you know, can we all agree on what we’re all gonna…you have to do it all in open session, and it’s very cumbersome, and they spent a whole day trying different ways to slice the onion, so to speak, and the marijuana tax was the one that survived. And nobody was really happy with that. So that is the question right now. Will they regroup and do something different by August 9? Cause if we lose that funding opportunity, everything you’re talking about doesn’t get handled.
Image of Sheila Kuehl is by Alan Light, is released under the CC BY 2.0, and we got it via Wikimedia.
- With a few very reasonable exceptions, like consultations with lawyers and personnel matters.
- Kerry Morrison or Sheila Kuehl, it’s not clear which.
- And no doubt, somewhere, someone is whining about how burdensome the laws against mass murder are, and how they paralyze government action, and how they inhibit disruptive problem solving and so on.